Sunderland prove elite women’s football plays second fiddle to men’s youth teams | Suzanne Wrack

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Sunderland’s relocation from the Academy of Light and from their ground makes them the first casualties of the switch to a winter Women’s Super League season but the parallels with PSG show this is a wider issue

The decision of Sunderland to relocate their women’s team miles from home – turfed off the Academy of Light training pitches and out of their Hetton Centre home ground – follows a worrying pattern. The move, from the club that kickstarted the careers of a host of England internationals now laden with silverware such as Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott, Demi Stokes, Jordan Nobbs and the Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton, is a further blow to a team who seemed to be thriving in recent years.

Promotion to the top tier of women’s football in 2015, having won the WSL 2, was followed by an impressive fourth-place finish – staying in the WSL 1 after promotion is increasingly difficult as the gulf between those arriving in the league and the professional teams at the top continues to grow. A challenging 2016 saw them drop to seventh, before they pulled up to fifth behind Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – the top four professionalised sides – in the Spring Series at the start of the year.

Related: Sunderland Ladies lose access to first-team training facilities at Academy of Light

The future for a Sunderland women’s team who reached the 2016 FA Cup semi-final looks bleak

Related: W-League breaks new ground with pay deal for ‘trailblazers’ of women’s sport

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Sportblog | The Guardian

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